Bookstore Tourism

Kim Allen-Niesen
Co-Founder, Bookstore People

I’m a practicing bookstore tourist.  Wherever I travel I look for a bookstore to visit and talk to an employee about what she recommends or what is selling at the store.  I’m not a book collector in the sense that I’m focused on a certain type of book, my goal is to find new books and to make a connection beyond the usual tourist conversations.  I walk away with a much better sense of the community I’m visiting than if I chatted up the server at the local diner.

I’m frequently asked how to find an independent bookstore.  The best source is indiebound.org.  This website has a comprehensive list of indies and every bookstore should list itself on the site.  I direct people to my website [www.bookstorepeople.com]which has a growing number of reviews of stores.  I also look to online travel websites in the shopping section, Fodors is my personal favorite.

BTSignLittle did I know that there was a grassroots bookstore tourism movement started by Larry Portzline.  Its purpose was to support indie bookshops by promoting them as a group travel destination. Larry started leading bookstore adventures in 2003, taking groups from Pennsylvania to visit the indie shops in New York City and Washington, DC.  The idea spread across the nation, here’s a video of a Los Angeles tour:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE__5Fkuir4

His tours have been on hiatus for awhile, but he’s hoping to re-start them as soon as the economy turns.

You don’t have to wait for Larry though, anyone can do this with five friends in a mini-van or 50 book addicts on a chartered bus.  Larry’s book about bookstore tourism, Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict’s Guide To Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips is out of print but can be downloaded from Squid for $2.50.  It providesl “how to” guidence from contacting the bookseller to what movies to show if you are travelling from store to store on a bus.  You can design a simple trip with two stores or something more elaborate including transporation and food.
Use recent bookstore walking tours as a guide for planning  your own local adventure.  The Millions sponsors an annual bookstore walking tour that this year stopped at six bookstores and ended with food and drinks at the last location.  Conversational Reading recently sponsored a tour of five San Francisco bookstores with a program and food at the last stop, The Booksmith.  Bookstore tours can be sponsored by an independent person or a group of bookstores working together to encourage people to visit their stores.  Either way it’s a fun day for book lovers and a way to introduce a bookstore to a new audience. If you plan a tour, let us know how it goes.

Editor’s notes: Interview with Larry Portzline at World Hum

Larry’s book on Bookstore Tourism:

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  • Thanks for the post. love books and can never have enough. I used to buy and sell used books I would find at garage sales. I had over 1,000 books in my house at any given time. I loved hunting for books at garage sales and called myself ” The Book Hunter”. The most I ever sold a book for was $80.00, It was an art book that I paid $0.25 cents for. I was shocked and suprised that it sold for so much.When I first started buying books at garage sales there was not a shortage but not anymore. It seems as if everyone jumped on the book wagon or should I say ebay wagon? I have since sold off my 1,000’s of books because they were taking over, now I have maybe 50. I havent sold any books as of late but the urge is still there.
    I joined a paper back swap book club, which is completely awesome. It keeps me under control.

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  • Hi, I’m wondering about Book Towns? Those economic development stabs that tout a small, picturesque-if-battered town (sometimes to its surprise) as a bubbling hub of bookishness. Maybe they’ll have a festival. Several are simmering away in Europe, but was there not a stab at establishing one in Pennsylvania, do you know?
    Thanks very much,
    Liz Kirchner

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